North Carolina sports betting took a massive step towards becoming a reality in 2024, as the state’s House of Representatives approved a bill to legalize online sports betting in the Tar Heel State.

The House of Representatives approved Rep. Jason Saine’s (R-97) online sports betting bill, HB 347, by a 64-45 vote on its third and final reading. The bill now heads to the North Carolina Senate.

This is the first time a sports betting bill has been approved by the North Carolina House of Representatives. In 2022, the Senate approved a sports betting bill before it was defeated by the House.

North Carolina inching closer to online sports betting

Saine’s bill will allow between 10 to 12 online sports betting operators and sets the state’s sports betting tax rate at 14% of adjusted gross revenue. Operators will be able to deduct promotional bets and bonuses from their taxable revenue with no limitations through 2024, but the deduction rate will decline through 2026 and be disallowed starting Jan. 1, 2027.

Sports betting will be eligible to begin on Jan. 8, 2024, if the bill is approved by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper (D). Cooper has supported sports betting legislation in the past.

Saine’s bill was passed clean, despite facing 17 proposed amendments over the last two days. All 17 amendments were soundly defeated, a result that left a bad taste in the mouths of several Representatives.

It was a shame that the bill’s fate was decided before it came to the House floor, Rep. Maria Cervania (D-41) said, and that none of the amendments were given serious consideration.

“There were great amendments here to help protect and serve,” she said.

Nine amendments were floated today, including proposals to ban the use of credits cards to fund bets, to increase the proposed tax rate from 14% to 36%, and limit sports betting to only retail sportsbooks at stadiums and arenas throughout the state.

These were thoughtful amendments that were never truly considered for adoption, Rep. Abe Jones (D-38) said.

“I hope against my logic that something good comes of it for North Carolina. It’s against my values and I’m glad to vote against it.”

$60 million to $80 million a year?

At market maturity, Saine said North Carolina could expect between $60 million to $80 million annually, a figure that was again hotly contested during today’s reading by several of his colleagues.

Rep. Marcia Morey (D-30) said the only thing that has increased in states with legalized sports betting is gambling addiction, with few states ever realizing the revenue estimates proposed to them during the legislative process.

“I have not heard one positive aspect of the gambling activity itself. I have not heard one person say, ‘Oh it’s a thrill, it’s an enjoyment, it brings our family together!’ Not one good aspect of this other than money and greed. Is that the way we want to go?” Morey said.

Sports betting bill details

The proposed law allows bets on professional sports, college sports (including in-state schools), eSports, and the Olympic games.

Sports betting tax revenues will be distributed as follows:

  • $2 million annually for gambling addiction and treatment services
  • $1 million annually to Division of Parks and Recreation for the purchase of youth sports equipment
  • $300,000 each annually to seven state universities for their athletic departments
  • $1 million annually to Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council for grants

If there is any remaining revenue, it will be distributed as follows:

  • 20% to 10 historically black colleges and universities for their athletic departments
  • 30% to a fund to attract major sporting events to the state (Super Bowl, March Madness, etc.)
  • 50% to the state’s general fund

Saine recently stripped language that would have allowed both dog and horse racing from the bill.